When I was jogging across Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, I had crossed four of six lanes on the green light when suddenly, a driver in a car zoomed through his red light nearly hitting me in the crosswalk. My life did not flash before my eyes. There was no time for that. I registered only surprise. After that, there was anger at the driver for running the red light and then gratitude that my life still went on. I thanked God that I had no resentments toward anyone. And the people about whom I care knew that I loved them. If life had ended just then, my relationships were set straight, as far as I knew. I felt relieved deep down to know that. After all, I do not know of any spiritual traditions that recommend carrying resentments or fostering broken relationships.
This is the time of year in my faith tradition that encourages us to look for the unexpected. Theologian Jurgen Moltmann said, “Pray and watch…Expect the unexpected,” in a film by The Work of the People (www.theworkofthepeople.com). We are meant to look for the surprises in everyday life. Be attentive. We might see something Divine at work in the world, and not only have a brush with mortality! For example, my little Havanese dog just came over to lick my face in a gesture of affection as I write this. My spiritual director Diane always calls him one of God’s messengers embodying the welcome of God. This dog surprises and delights me.
The biggest surprise, the most unexpected thing of all, is the embodiment of God. At the end of this season of Advent, God comes to us in the form of a helpless child, born to a totally inexperienced mother, who is a teenager and homeless at the time. (We need to be shown how to live and love in relationship with him.) It is a very strange story, surviving for thousands of years, being celebrated by lots of people who do not even believe it. Yet, for those who believe, it reminds us that God does surprising and unexpected things for which we would do well to watch.
May you expect the unexpected.
May you seek the surprises in everyday life.
May you welcome the Divine in whatever form God comes to you this season.